Lee Roy Minugh was a tattooist, Baptist Preacher and Mason who made his name in the tattoo business during the 1950’s at the Pike, where he also worked with the famous tattoo artist Owen Jensen.
Minugh himself was first tattooed in 1924, he learned the art on the circus lot and settled into Los Angeles in the 1930’s. His first shop was in the back of a book store. Later Lee Roy moved to the The Pike in Long Beach, CA. Located at the foot of Pine avenue just below Ocean Boulevard, The Pike was a world famous location for tattooing on the west coast. Often called the “Coney Island of the West” The Pike started as a lowly pier built in 1893 and grew into one of the largest amusement parks in the country. Minugh was one of the first tattooists to display his art on television when he tattooed Steve Allen, the first host of The Tonight Show on NBC in the late 1950’s. The design was four dots, and as the tattooist said: “It was just to say he was tattooed”.
Lee Roy Minugh was also famous for having tattooed a Rock of Ages on Capt. Don Leslie’s back. The name “Rock of Ages” comes from a hymn written in 1763, when a reverend from Somerset was caught in a storm, and found refuge in a gap in the gorge he was walking through. It was not for another 100 years until the visual representation of the Rock of Ages we know took shape, with a woman who clings to a stone cross.
Lee Roy Minugh‘s work dates back to the 1950s, when hearts, eagles, snakes and exotic Asian women were rendered in dark, heavy lines, and filled in with the few colors available (yellow, red, blue and green).
Minugh’s son, Eric published recently a book using his dad’s original flash which shows many of his classic designs. In an interview, Eric said that during the high school, he was really embarrassed by his father:
“He was always taking off his shirt. He knew the more tattoos he had, the more people would come to his office to get tattoos”.
When the family went on vacations “he had to go swimming because he knew people would be looking at him, and some people thought it was great and some people thought it was terrible”.
Eric, a tattoo artist himself, has turned promoter. He’s displaying his late father’s work in a mini tribute, entitled Tattoos My Dad Had at the Arts of Paradise Gallery in Waikiki.
Through it all, Eric Minugh‘s skin has remained untouched by India ink. “The story was, my father said I couldn’t get a tattoo from anyone else but him. But my mom was against it, so I never got one”. Lee Roy Minugh died on February 1994, age 83.